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Interview: Sextile

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In the midst of rooting through Parisian thrift shops for the best second-hand clothes, one half of the (now) duo Sextile picks up my Whatsapp call. Accompanying his counterpart Melissa while she sources the best bargains for her vintage clothing shop in LA, Brady is warm, humble and excitable.

Preparing for one of the stops on their European tour, Brady and Melissa have been enjoying revisiting cities they first met just 6 months previously. But since then, they’ve lost two of their core players that made up the former Sextile quartet, leaving just the founding members to continue the strive for bigger, better and bolder.

“When you start a band, you wanna create a gang mentality, you know? You want everyone to contribute equally. It ended up being that me and Melissa were pulling so much weight....we set our terms of what we expect from people in a band...and we were just like, guys I think we’re just gonna have to keep moving forward and they decided to quit. It’s kind of a bummer in a way, but from people’s responses to this tour, I think it was the best decision for us.”

Brady and Melissa take their inspiration from across the globe, but something that is particularly striking about their progress (as a band, but also in their sound) is how big of a role the synthesiser plays. Their latest EP ‘3’ delves into the rich, textured sound of the synthesiser and twists and contorts its capabilities to its own will.

“[Synthesisers] are a hugely important part of Sextile...I’m such a huge advocate for sound and rhythm, and creating textures and giving them rhythm. I feel like when I sit down with a guitar and try and write a song...it feels like a million other songs.”

The synthesiser doesn’t just inspire Brady in terms of music production and songwriting, but in its history as well. A favoured tool of bands like Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (or D.A.F.) capturing the zeitgeist of the Neue Deutsche Welle movement, the synthesiser acted as the key to unlocking unconventionally structured art. Brady spoke fondly of D.A.F. and how profound the NDW movement was for Sextile, in the guise of minimalist expressionism.

“It’s very hard to place but what they did a lot, is take sounds and make them rhythmic. They don’t necessarily have to be in tune, they don’t necessarily have to be typical. They’ll use horns and de-tune them or they’ll play out of key, but they’ll create rhythms and it’s really dancey.

“These guys aren’t writing traditional types of songs or going about it in a traditional kind of way. That’s what inspired us...and it’s something that we find challenging.”

Playing with this notion of the unconventional is ‘Disco’ - without a shadow of a doubt, Sextile’s most devilish dance beat to date. Both in its stripped back, black and white visuals, and its next to nothing lyricism, Brady and Melissa achieve so much in saying so little.

“That lyric you mentioned (“No time for disco / They’ve got control”) I don’t even have enough time because I’m working all the fucking time, so I can’t even go to a disco. They’ve got control of it because I’m having to fucking work to pay my bills and I can’t break through in any kind of way. It’s just like the healthcare system in the United States, the insurance, the car insurance, car payments…

“Then the next lyric (“No time for dancing / No disco”) it’s because there aren’t any more! Those, like, underground clubs…[they] are all getting shut down.”

At the mention of the health care system in his home country, Brady’s voice came fuller, angrier and peppered with swear words. Sextile have always been an outspoken band - unafraid to associate their political ideologies with their musical identity, intrinsically entwining their lyricism and visual representation with revolution, protest and empowerment. Some say music and politics should stay separate, but Brady asks why the hell would anyone try to do that?

“People who wanna separate sports and politics, music and politics, you can’t! It’s impossible! We all live in it, you know? I’m part of it...I experience it too. Music is, for me and Melissa, it’s an expression of what we experience during our lifetime on this rock that’s, sort of, flying around in space.

“I think that for me, the way I stand is that, if you don’t do anything then you’re part of the fucking problem...Here’s the thing: when I hear friends say that ‘I don’t believe in the political system so I’m not gonna vote’ it bothers me. Because, well, they know you exist, they don’t give a fuck whether you vote or not, they’re gonna apply laws that are gonna affect you, no matter whether or not you wanna vote.

“You just standing by the wayside is just letting people walk the fuck over you.”

So what more can we do, I ask. As students, activists, as young people. In the UK, we’re taking the brunt of Brexit bullshittery and our very own Prime Minister dancing to ABBA at a political conference. What hope do we have?

“[Students] have all the power. When you’re young, you’re still tryna figure out who the fuck you are before you’re trying to figure out what the rest of the world is about...The main point I can drive home is that you matter. You matter and you should have your voice heard.

“Don’t be shy to tell your friends about how you feel or about your opinion of the world...Make everyone aware, make a group, make music about it. Make art about it. Don’t neglect it.

“If you don’t like the way things are, then speak the fuck up.”

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